Monday, July 12, 2010

Soy Isoflavones and Chili Pepper for Hair Growth – Experiment Begins

The hotter the pepper, the more capsaicin it contains.
The hotter the pepper, the more capsaicin it contains. (Photo by Andreas Adermark)

I've written so many posts on soy isoflavones and hair growth that I figured it's time to start another experiment to see for myself whether the claims are true.

Even though it looks like soy isoflavones alone are sufficient to increase dermal levels of IGF-1 and thus promote hair growth, the most effective combination seems to be isoflavones and capsaicin. If you haven't seen the pictures from that paper for some reason, I recommend taking a look at the latter link. This combination is the one I will be testing.

The soy isoflavones supplement I have is by NOW Foods. It contains 60 mg of isoflavones (genistein, daidzein and glycitein) per capsule. This is slightly less than the 75 mg used in the human study, but since I don't want to take 120 mg per day, it'll have to do.

As for capsaicin, I'm going with the natural route and adding chili pepper to my foods during the experiment. There are capsaicin supplements too, but since I like spicy foods anyway, I don't think supplements are worth the extra money in this case.

The only problem is that it's pretty difficult to estimate the amount of capsaicin; a tablespoon of ground chili will contain anywhere between 0.8 mg and 480 mg of capsaicin. In the study, 7 mg per day was consumed, so if I manage to eat a tablespoon, I should have decent odds of ingesting at least as much capsaicin.

As you can see, this is not an exact replica of the human study, but I think my own experiment will be very close to what other people might try at home. The study lasted for 5 months, which is how long you should give any treatment before realistically expecting results. I will post an update after I run out of capsules and we'll see what happens then.

Keep in mind that this is not the only thing I have going on at the moment that might affect hair growth. Though not technically experiments, I've been using ketoconazole and piroctone olamine shampoos regularly, because the science behind them looks pretty good. I'm also consuming some ground flax seeds every now and then, which could be beneficial for hair.

Since I started to use these three things, I've noticed a slight decrease in the number of hairs lost daily. Whereas I counted 60-80 before, I now seem to lose about 40-50 hairs daily. Both of these figures are within the normal range, so these additions to my health regiment are mostly about preventing (or at least delaying) any future hair loss. Still, if the hair growth promoting effect of isoflavones and capsaicin is as strong as the rodent and human studies show, I would expect some visible changes even in people without androgenic alopecia.

Lastly, my experiments with retinoids and an Ayurvedic topical called Nutrich oil are still running. I'm applying both of them on my temples, one on the left and the other on the right, to see if they increase hair growth. So far I have not noticed any dramatic changes, so I don't think they will obfuscate the results of this experiment too much.

I'll keep you updated on how things go. Meanwhile, if you've tried soy isoflavones or capsaicin, drop a comment and share your experiences!

For more information on hair growth, see these posts:

BioSil, JarroSil & Beer – Silicon Experiment Conclusion
Emu Oil vs. Hair Again® Topical Gel: Hair Growth Battle Conclusion
Eclipta Alba Extract Grows Hair Quicker than Minoxidil
Do Flax Lignans Reduce Hair Loss from MPB?

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29 kommenttia:

Fellow Experimenter July 13, 2010 at 10:55 PM  

I've somewhat tried the routine before. I took NOW Foods Soy Isoflavone capsules (2X day) internally while using a cayenne topical. I remember that I got tons of vellus hair on the temples where I was applying the topical in only a week or so which left me super excited. Sadly though I think I either had too much cayenne in the topical or overdosed on it somehow because the vellus hairs disappeared after some time and I gave up. I believe that it is key to use low doses of capsaicin otherwise it somehow overwhelms the hair follicles.

I am doing some research and am going to retry the experiment along with you. I know that I made the topical by putting ground cayenne pepper in an alcohol solution for about a week and then filtered out the cayenne flakes using a coffee filter.

Good luck with everything, I'll be sure to check in for any updates and try and let you know how my experiment is going.

JLL July 14, 2010 at 8:56 AM  

@Fellow Experimenter,

Interesting, thanks for sharing that! No increase in hair growth other than the temples then? How much cayenne pepper and alcohol did you use?

Perhaps another agent is needed to turn vellus hairs into terminal hairs.

Fellow Experimenter July 20, 2010 at 7:05 PM  

I only tried it on the temples because I was using I believe minoxidil on the crown at the time and having some success. I've since stopped minoxidil after hearing about some of its effects and my loss on the crown has slowly progressed. I've been trying to find exactly how I made the cayenne solution but the thread where it was heavily discussed has been deleted. The only thing that I can turn up on any message boards, is a solution of 40-50 grams(about 3 tablespoons)of cayenne in 150 mL of pure alcohol (he apparently recommends between 70-93%). I remember that I used ethyl alcohol because it is somewhat better for hair then isopropyl. You apparently let it in solution for 5-10 days and then filter it.

I'm currently researching about the relationship of substance p, which the cayenne apparently depletes, and cortisol. I do think that something else might be needed to turn the hairs from vellus to terminal...the question is what.

Anonymous August 22, 2010 at 4:11 AM  

Can't wait for an update on this experiment...

Anonymous September 19, 2010 at 6:52 AM  

Question from a Finnish reader: where do you order your NOW Foods products? Thanks in advance.

JLL September 19, 2010 at 5:55 PM  


From The shipping to Finland is only $4 or so. Also, if you're ordering for the first time, you can get a $5 discount by using code "NEN423".


Anonymous October 7, 2010 at 9:38 PM  

How's it going ?

Anonymous October 13, 2010 at 2:45 AM  

I'd love an update on this experiment.

JLL October 13, 2010 at 10:05 AM  

There will be a proper update once I've finished the bottle of isoflavones. For now, I can tell you that I'm having a difficult time eating my daily portion of chili powder! And I've switched from taking one capsule every day to taking one every other day and two every other day.


Anonymous November 4, 2010 at 6:32 AM  

I too have been undergoing the chilli and soy isoflavone experiment. I ran out of my bottle of isoflavones a week ago however, and was wanting your opinion on buying another? They're rather expensive.

JLL November 4, 2010 at 10:46 AM  


The study on humans lasted for 5 months, so one bottle may not enough to see results. The problem with doing short experiments is that you spend the money but end up not really knowing whether it *would* have worked.


Anonymous December 25, 2010 at 2:17 PM  

I as well am trying this routine, for about two and a half months now. As you mention i also have some difficulties digesting the capsaicin, taken in the form of cayenne pepper capsules (4 daily)..
I think in this perspective an other article published by the same group is worth looking at:

'Effect of topical application of raspberry ketone on dermal production of insulin-like growth factor-I in mice and on hair growth and skin elasticity in humans'

Apparently raspberry ketone, a molecule with an analogous structure and readily available on certain fitness sites, has similar effects as capsaicin without the typcal 'burning' sensation. An alternative worth considering...

Anonymous December 29, 2010 at 3:31 PM  

Merry Christmas, update please!?!

Anonymous February 16, 2011 at 2:37 AM  


LW March 28, 2011 at 12:05 AM  

If you are experimenting with this ensure you are supplementing with Iodine. Google: Soy Isoflavones and Thyroid.


xen June 15, 2011 at 3:42 AM  

I am curious to this thread as I have always tried different things in my hair... I googled soy isoflavones and came to this page... I am putting this (goftgel)capsule directly into my hair at about 10 pills per week. so far, I have seen a lot of new growth, but I am unsure if it is because of the soy, or the grapefruit essential oil I was using the month prior.

Anonymous June 15, 2011 at 7:45 AM  

Hello, well I guess I will put my 2 cents in because I too have been with the experiment for over a year now and I must say that it definitely worked for me. I lost a lot of hair in a period of 2 months from one side of my head and all of the area above the ear was very scarce. So I started the treatment by taking the soy 9200mg)from vitamin shoppe and I made my own capsules from cayenne pepper. I bought the spice from the supermarket and I bought the empty capsules and filled them with a filler. I take 2 a day, one in the morning and one at night. I suggest you take them with really cold water and it does not burn. I also started adding 100 drops of rosemary essential oil to my 8oz shampoo and I am happy to say my hair is growing out. I can see all of the hair growing (it is now about 4 inches long. I also take saw palmetto (540 mg) from vitamin shoppe. I don't know what it was that worked but after one year I can say it has been a total success.

JLL June 15, 2011 at 11:35 AM  


That's an interesting experiment, although not one I would try myself -- the only study I've seen on topical soy *reduced* hair growth. I've been meaning to do a post on that, will have to read the paper again.

Keep us updated, though!


JLL June 15, 2011 at 11:38 AM  


I'm glad to hear your hair grew back. The thing with alopecia areata (which I assume it was in your case, since you only lost hair on one side of the head) is that it's much easier to fix than androgenic alopecia -- often the hair even grows back without doing anything.

That said, some of the subjects in the study did look like they had alopecia areata, and soy + chili worked for them better than placebo.


Anonymous July 8, 2011 at 2:26 AM  

Overstimulation of the vanilloid 1 receptors with capscacin will inhibit hair growth. Less is more in this case. Simply guessing your intake is not suggested.

"The vanilloid receptor-1 (VR1, or transient receptor potential vanilloid-1 receptor, TRPV1) is activated by capsaicin, the key ingredient of hot peppers....
TRPV1 activation by capsaicin resulted in a dose-dependent and TRPV1-specific inhibition of hair shaft elongation, suppression of proliferation, induction of apoptosis, premature HF regression (catagen), and up-regulation of intrafollicular transforming growth factor-beta(2). Cultured human ORS keratinocytes also expressed functional TRPV1, whose stimulation inhibited proliferation, induced apoptosis, elevated intracellular calcium concentration, up-regulated known endogenous hair growth inhibitors (interleukin-1beta, transforming growth factor-beta(2)), and down-regulated known hair growth promoters (hepatocyte growth factor, insulin-like growth factor-I, stem cell factor).

Anonymous July 8, 2011 at 2:39 AM  

some more reading re: TRPV

TRPV3 activation by plant-derived (e.g., eugenol, 10-1,000 μM) or synthetic (e.g., 2-aminoethoxydiphenyl borate, 1-300 μM) agonists resulted in a dose-dependent inhibition of hair shaft elongation, suppression of proliferation, and induction of apoptosis and premature HF regression (catagen).

I am using Pharmacist's Ultimate Health Cayenne Pepper Standardized Extract 1/2 - 1 cap/day with 1 cap/day NOW Soy Isoflavones with very good success. Not so much for hair loss but increase in IGF-1 as relates to blood pressure and anti-aging.

So, just pointing out that the amount of capsaicin is critical and can easily be overdone with detriment to hair growth. The amount of isoflavones is not a worry as concerns decrease in androgen levels, libido, etc.

Best of luck!

JLL July 8, 2011 at 11:23 AM  


Interesting, thanks for the papers. They seem to be about using capsaicin topically however, not orally. I'm not sure you can easily consume too much capsaicin from chili peppers.


Anonymous July 9, 2011 at 2:34 AM

Peppers, hot chili, red, raw
1 pepper, 45 grams @ ~ .1 - 1.0% capsaicin = ~ 4.5 - 45 mg capsaicin.

Spices, pepper, red or cayenne
1 teaspoon, 2 grams @ ~ .1 - 1.0% capsaicin = ~ 2 - 20 mg capsaicin.

"5 months after oral administration of capsaicin (6 mg/day)"

Oral intake of capsaicin could easily be overdone as concentrations in natural products varies widely.

Anonymous August 25, 2011 at 10:26 PM  


I'm about to start a similar experiment. I've heard about an old hair tonic from jalapenos and alcohol. Similar to ones posted above. I'm going to try it. I'm wondering what the affect would be if I added some soy isoflavone capsules into it. As well as saw palmetto, maybe biotin as well. Do you think this is a good idea? Not sure how affective they would be crushed and added to alcohol or if it's healthy or not.
Also, as far as making hairs terminal, there is a lot of talk about miconazole nitrate (active ingredient in monistat) in boosting hair growth and growing new hair as well as turning vellus hairs to terminal. I'll be trying that as well.

JLL August 26, 2011 at 1:19 PM  


I don't know whether topical biotin or saw palmetto would work, especially when just using capsules, but they probably won't do any harm either. Biotin is in a lot of shampoos and conditioners.

As for soy isoflavones, there's one study that found topical soy milk to *reduce* body hair growth. Now, that could mean that it works as an anti-androgen, in which case applying it on your scalp would be a wise move, or it could mean that topical soy reduces hair growth everywhere.


Anonymous August 26, 2011 at 6:33 PM  


Thanks for the fast response! I think I remember the study you're talking about. I believe it was a specific part of the soy that had that affect I don't really remember what, but I think I've seen isoflavones themselves reported to act as an anti androgen as you said. Also, I've been looking for the original studies about the mice and humans. I feel like I read somewhere in there that the formula was injected into the scalp (I could be thinking of something else) which made me think topical would be good. I'll keep researching.
It's been about a year since you started the post... Have you had any success with your regimen? And have you heard all the buzz over monistat?

JLL August 28, 2011 at 8:03 PM  


There's an update post on the experiment here:

Yeah I've read about Monistat, I will do an experiment with that as well.


Richard November 21, 2011 at 11:55 PM  

Hey man, I'm doing some self experimentation too. I have many questions for you. My research so far has been around adaptagenic herbs. I am close to your age (mid twenties) and am curious about what you've learned.

My experiments have so far been about avoiding toxic things (quit brushing my teeth with toothpaste for over a week, stopped wearing deodorant that contains aluminum or triclosan, refuse to drink or eat from plastic containers, won't eat or drink anything from a can, and won't use non stick cookware or eat popcorn popped in a bag)

And taking adaptagenic herbs ( ashwagandha, ginseng, reishi, astragalus, Gotu Kola, jiaogulan, and rhodiola rosea)

Growing medicinal mushrooms (reishi, lion's mane) December 2011

Taking antioxidants (coq10 - ubiquinone, n-acetyl-cisteine, zinc, red wine, green tea, wheat germ oil)


High testosterone diet and a couple other things that are slipping my mind right now.

If you wanna chat about it I'm on twitter @iwillescape or Richard at iwillescape dot com. October 13, 2012 at 9:11 AM  

the pictures from that paper for some reason, I recommend taking a look at the latter link. This combination is the one I will be testing.

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